Two days later, Eagle boarded the coach back to Leeds alone. Lucas had proved too ill to travel and been left in the care of a young widow recommended by Mr Dobney. The attorney was to write and let Eagle know when Lucas was well enough to return, so he could meet him from the coach.
All in all, Eagle felt pleased at the way things had turned out. He had done what he had set out to do, and it was only a matter of time before the object of his mission returned to his rightful place under his master’s roof. He journeyed back in good spirits, lifting them further by imbibing brandy at every stop, not to mention secret nips at the bottle sequestered in his coat. Drink being drink, he paid the price for indulgence. His inner voice nagged him about the manner of Lucas’s abduction, and who was behind it; a man who knew the workings of the law, a man whose business provided contacts in Liverpool: his old enemy, Mr Murgatroyd. Eager for revenge, he was like the leader horses biting at the bit to be home. Or so he thought …
He had been in a brown study, and it must have showed. Among his fellow travellers was a girl of eighteen or nineteen sitting diagonally to his left. She was watching him closely, and smiled when he caught her eye. Thereafter he succumbed to eye contact every few minutes. The practice was intoxicating for both, and try as they would, they couldn’t stop. The girl’s face in the fading light had a beguiling mixture of innocence and sensuality. Her neck was slender, her breast full and heaving. And she was plump at the arms – he liked that. He liked it even more on the last leg of the journey when he and she were alone. No sooner had the last passenger climbed out at Burnley, than she burst into giggles, which Eagle took for nerves. The giggles, the blushes, the heart pounding as loudly as his own – it was a thrill that pulsed and throbbed in the narrow confines of the cab. Liberated by the knowledge that she desired him, he took the bottle from his pocket and uncorked the neck. ‘Would you care to join me?’ he asked, when he’d taken a pull.
‘Don’t mind if I do,’ she answered, still giggling. Her tone was a young girl’s playing forbidden games in the woods. But her long drag at the bottle surprised him, and there was no splutter or spillage. Either she had drunk strong liquor before, or her luck had held when she tried to impress him.
‘Shall I come over there?’ he asked, ever more emboldened.
‘If you like,’ she said, with coquettish toss of the head.
‘Oh I’d like all right,’ he said, already at her side and fingering her locks.
She had the bottle again, its squat black plumpness resting across the tops of her copious breasts. He shuffled up close on the seat. She let him kiss her on the cheek, then on the mouth, then, best of all, where the bottle rested.
‘I’ve never done this in a carriage before,’ she said, burying her face in his neck and nibbling his ear.
‘Me neither,’ he said, scarcely able to speak as she slipped her hand down his breeches.
And afterwards came regret, as it often does after pleasure. She had yielded so easily, more so the second time when she’d offered what he wanted before he’d even asked. A girl who gave it away so cheaply had probably done so many times. He couldn’t help dwelling on the pox, and the worst kind too. Before the year was out, that pretty, wanton girl might be making him piss pure cream. Then there was Augusta – what would she think if she could see him now? He told himself he was being a booby, and mustn’t dwell on such things. Think only that you enjoyed her, he said, that she’d been delightful, that you’ll never see her again.
At Leeds Bridge Tom was waiting with the gig as Eagle had instructed in his letter. Before joining him, he shook hands with the girl and said goodbye. ‘I forgot to ask where you’re bound,’ he said, when she’d told him her name.
Miss Jane Delamare looked at him knowingly and smiled. Her teeth, he now noticed, were quite discoloured. ‘Horseford Hall,’ she said, wanting to laugh again. ‘I’m to live there with Sir Walter Stanhope.’
‘But Sir Walter is my patron and my employer …’ Eagle stammered.
‘Yes, I know,’ she said. ‘He’s my uncle.’
My eighteenth-century crime novel, An Uncommon Attorney, is available on Amazon and from Rowanvale Books.